Beauology 101: Being Artfully Original In Comic Books

The Original Beau Smith

The Original Beau Smith


by Beau Smith

For me, the 1980s were the “Golden Age” Of Comic Book Original Art. I was writing comics, as well as the VP of Sales and Marketing at Eclipse Comics. I was traveling quite a bit, probably two weeks out of every month, to comic book conventions, distributor seminars, and store signings.

It was a great opportunity to buy, trade, and be gifted comics and comic book original art. In retrospect, both were fairly cheap then, even with my limited income. I was lucky enough to fill a lot of voids in my personal comic book collection and also really build upon my comic book original art.

Aquaman by Nick Cardy

Aquaman by Nick Cardy


Even then I knew that every piece of original art was one of a kind. If I had some money in my wallet at a convention, I rarely passed up the chance to buy almost any original art at the dealer’s table or from the artist. I knew that each page had a story. That every artist spent time with that piece of paper and those characters on it. It could’ve been a good day/night for them, or a really bad one. Just like anyone on any job, there was more to it than meets the eye. After getting to know and become friends with a lot of artists, I always questioned them about what it was like working on a page. Sometimes they had epic stories, other times they barely remembered the art, they only remembered the deadline.

Avengers #145 Art by Don Heck

Avengers #145 Art by Don Heck


I always enjoyed talking to the older artists. The ones that drew the comics of my youth. They were always honest, and their point of view on the work was so different from the next generation, Baby Boomers, that were fans and then became professionals. So many of “The Greatest Generation” era artists looked upon the art as a job. 30 pages or more a month, maybe more, then start on the next one. Few were fans of the characters. They had particular genres they enjoyed drawing more than others, but few were really fans of superhero comic books. The preferred westerns, war, and adventure stories. They almost all had two things in common, they loved drawing, and they had dreams of being a newspaper comic strip creator like Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond and the like.

The aftermarket for original art was nothing like it is today or even decades ago. We Baby Boomers made that market. Some of the artists that I bought work from kinda shook their head and felt a little guilty for taking my money. I only wish that some of them were able to have lived long enough to really be a part of the original art boom and make some well-deserved money from their artistic efforts. It’s kinda like professional athletes of the early days never getting to enjoy financial success off of their former career—before the memorabilia craze.

Daredevil Issue 103. Art by Bob Brown and Don Heck.

Daredevil Issue 103. Art by Bob Brown and Don Heck.


I was at Chicago Comic Con in the ’80s and came across a dealer that had a very large stack of original art by wide variety of artists, mostly from DC Comics in the ’60s and ’70s. I was able to buy a complete issue of The Flash by Irv Novick for $5.00 a page, near complete issues of Justice League Of America by Dick Dillin, and about 20 various pages of Marvel Comics art by Bob Brown. All for $5.00 a page. The dealer was so excited to sell the pages, he told me that he had been sitting on them for a while, that no one wanted them because they weren’t George Perez, John Byrne, or Frank Miller. I was more than happy with my buy. The dealer even threw in some extra pages at no cost because he didn’t want to haul them back. I kept a few of the pages, but my main purpose in buying them was to give them away as Christmas gifts to buddies of mine in comics, and I did. I hope they still have them. The going price has sure increased decade later.

Wonder Woman Ares God Of War, By Don Heck

Wonder Woman Ares God Of War, By Don Heck


My collection is based off sentiment. Almost every piece I’ve bought or have been given means something to me. When I look at them they always bring a smile to my face because of the artist, the time, the characters, and memory of receiving them.

Being a freelancer where there are some highs and lows as far as available work, I have known some of the low years. During those times when house payments and other bills needed to be made, I had to sell some of my originals. Not a lot, but a few. I was thankful I had them to sell when the time called for it. Thankful that I got to enjoy them for a while and that they were going to a home where they would be enjoyed.

Avengers Issue 15 Page 12. Gone, But Never Forgotten. :(

Avengers Issue 15 Page 12. Gone, But Never Forgotten. 🙁


The one I miss the most is from Avengers Issue 15. Page 12. Layouts by Jack Kirby, Pencils by Don Heck, Inks by Mike Esposito. I bought it in the mid ’80s, at Chicago Comic Con. Not a week goes by that I don’t miss that page, BUT…I’m glad I had it to sell during a low time, because most folks don’t have something like that to bail them out of a rough patch. My family comes first. Thanks to that page the roof stayed over our heads.

I realize I may have rambled a bit this week, but that’s what I do, ramble. I just wanted to share some moments of original art with you so that if and when you own some original art, you will appreciate it for what really matters to you, and what matters to you could be a lot of things. It’s personal, that’s what counts.

In the meantime, stay original.

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @BeauSmithRanch

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